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X-Ray technology reveals details of ancient ancestor's brain

Friday, September 09, 2011 - 01:20

Sept. 9 - The unveiling of a two-million-year-old hominid skeleton in South Africa has not only provided insights into the origins of man, it also demonstrates the great strides made in three dimensional scanning technology. Details of early the human ancestor's brain anatomy have been revealed to researchers through scans formed by one of the most sophisticated X-ray machines in the world. Rob Muir reports.

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The brain of Australopithecus sediba was the a size of a grapefruit and was similar in shape to that of modern humans. Unveiled in South Africa where it was discovered, much has been learned about the two million year old hominid through a technique called x-ray synchrotron microtomography. It's a scanning technology that allows sceintists to look inside the skull without having to break it open, an invaluable tool according to paleantologist Professor Lee Berger from the University of Witwatersrand. SOUNDBITE: (English) PROFESSOR LEE BERGER, UNIVERSITY OF WITWATERSRAND SCHOOL OF GEOSCIENCES, SAYING: "What we have here is the highest resolution scan of an object this size that we can do anywhere in the world." And what it revealed in this case, is evidence of a small, though well developed brain, taking the scientists by surprise. They say the frontal cavity probably contained a human-like frontal lobe and that if Australopthecus is in fact, ancestor of the Homo genus as they believe, the findings indicate that the modern human brain may have evolved more quickly than previously thought. At scan widths narrower than a human hair, the X-Ray technology has provided an unprecedented family snapshot of one of mans oldest relatives. Rob Muir, Reuters

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X-Ray technology reveals details of ancient ancestor's brain

Friday, September 09, 2011 - 01:20